Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

How to charge AirPods wirelessly or with a power cable

Apple revolutionized wireless listening with the AirPods. The true wireless earbuds offer elite flexibility, thanks in part to the battery design. Each earbud holds a separate charge of its own for a certain amount of hours (up to six hours with the AirPods 3, for example). They also come with a charging case that has a battery life of its own, typically enough to charge up the earbuds several times.

That charging case is where all the charging magic happens. When you’re ready to recharge your AirPods, you can power up the case with either a cable connection or, for the right models, a wireless charging pad. Let’s go over the details so you know exactly how to charge the AirPods and AirPods Pro!

Related Videos




5 minutes

What You Need

  • A pair of AirPods or AirPods Pro

  • Wired or wireless charging case

  • Lightning charging cable and power brick

apple airpods 3 review 00010
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Charging your AirPods with a wired power connection

If your AirPods model, such as first- and early second-generation versions, didn't come with a wireless charging case (or you didn't upgrade it), or if you're not utilizing the wireless charging capabilities of later models, you'll be using a cable connection to charge your AirPods case, which in turn charges the AirPods. Here's how.

Step 1: Insert your AirPods in the charging case.

AirPods of all kinds come with a charging case, which stores and protect the earbuds while also charging up their batteries. Your first step should always be to place the AirPods back in their charge case.

Each case is designed for the AirPods to lock inside in a specific way: Early charging cases have the speaker tips facing out, while the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro have the speaker facing each other. It should be pretty obvious when your AirPods are inserted the right way, and the status light should blink each time an AirPod is correctly placed.

The exception here is the AirPods Max, which are over-ear headphones that don’t have a charging case. You can just skip this step and find the charging connection located directly on the AirPods Max.

apple airpods pro deal staples october 2021 2nd generation bluetooth earbuds wireless charging case

Step 2: Connect your charging case to a power source with a Lightning cable

Look on the bottom of your AirPod case, and you’ll see a Lightning port. That’s how you recharge the case when necessary. Once you have your AirPods linked to a mobile Apple device, you should be able to open the charging case near that device and see an immediate notification of the current battery life for each AirPod and the case itself — handy if you want to know when to recharge ahead of time.

apple airpods review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Step 3: Your AirPods came with a Lightning to USB cable for charging. You can connect this cable to any compatible adapter (although Apple’s own adapters are highly suggested) or a USB port on your computer. Connect the Lightning end to your charging case, and it will begin charging.

If you only have a device like a recent iPhone, your power adapter may have a USB-C port instead of a USB-A port. In these cases, you may need to pick up one of Apple’s USB-C to Lightning Cables to get the compatibility you need for outlet charging.

apple airpods pro powerbeats deals amazon verizon summer sale 2020 review db 12 2 720x720

Charging your AirPods wirelessly

Can Airpods be charged wirelessly? That depends on the type of case you have. For the first-generation AirPods, the case that came with that model does not support wireless charging, so you’ll have to use a cable. For the AirPods 2, some versions came without wireless charging, and some upgraded to a wireless charging case (buyers generally had a choice when buying directly from Apple), so you’ll have to check which version you bought. If you have the AirPods 3 or the AirPods Pro, all versions come with a wireless charging case.

You can also choose to buy a wireless charging case separately. This case will work with both the first-gen AirPods and the AirPods 2, allowing you to upgrade to this capability.

Now all you need is a wireless charger.

how to charge airpods wireless charger

Use a wireless charger

If you’ve got a wireless charging case, you’ll need a Qi-standard wireless charger. The good news is that most wireless chargers on the market use the Qi standard, so you have your pick of which model you want. Apple has its own MagSafe charger, which is compatible with the AirPods case, and there are many other great options from Belkin, Logitech, and other brands. Many even combine wireless charging stands for iPhones, Apple Watches, and AirPods, so you can charge them all in one spot.

Step 1: Once you have a wireless charging pad, plug it into an outlet and place your AirPod case directly on it with the front/indicator light facing outward. You should be able to tell when the case starts charging because the indicator light will come on and stay on.

If you’re wondering, “How do I charge my AirPods Pro wireless case?” — don’t worry: All these steps apply equally to the AirPods Pro, although the case design is slightly different.

Step 2: Watch the charging status light for more information

Every AirPods case has an indicator or status light that can keep you updated on charging status. For the non-wireless original charging case, the status light is on the inside, so you’ll have to open it up. All other cases have the status light on the outside, on the front of the case.

When the case light shines amber, it means less than one charge remains, and it’s time to charge up. To check on the status when charging via cable or wireless pad, pop open the charging case to check on the status light. When it shines green, the case has been fully charged.

If you’d like to upgrade your AirPods experience, you should also take a look through our complete guide on the best AirPods accessories you can currently get, from new charging options to ear tips, case covers, and more.

Editors' Recommendations

How to watch March Madness online
The March Madness app on an iPhone.

March has arrived. And with it, madness. March Madness, even.

It's the time of year in which college basketball has the tournament to end all tournaments, with 68 teams vying to be the best in the country. Every team that makes the tourney technically has a chance to win the whole thing. There will be upsets. There will be heartbreak.

Read more
I used two of the year’s oddest tech gadgets so you don’t have to
The open Nokia 5710 XpressAudio and Huawei Watch Buds

If you’re intent on not keeping your true wireless earbuds in a normal charging case, and want to hide them inside a different gadget, now is your time. The Huawei Watch Buds is a smartwatch with a pair of true wireless headphones inside, and the Nokia 5710 XpressAudio is a 4G phone that stores a pair of earbuds in the back.

It’s a bizarre niche that I’m surprised contains two products. I’ve used them, so it's my duty to report that both are a bit silly — and I don’t want to use any more of them, thank you very much. However, for the few people out there thinking they want to buy one, this is what they're like. For everyone else, you get to marvel at two of the oddest tech products seen in a while.
Phone or smartwatch?

Read more
How to know if you’re actually getting Dolby Atmos sound
pioneer elite dolby atmos enabled speaker system review insitutoplogo

With its object-based sound system, Dolby Atmos is the most immersive version of surround sound you can get at home. Though it took some time to catch on, the format is now supported by Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Disney+. So, if you’ve got Dolby Atmos speakers, a Dolby Atmos-compatible AV receiver or soundbar, and access to Dolby Atmos content, you should be hearing Dolby Atmos sound, right?

Well, as it turns out, no, not necessarily. To understand if your Atmos system is delivering true Atmos sound -- and not just really good surround sound -- you need to understand how Dolby Atmos works with all of your media sources and components. It’s a bit technical, but we’re going to make it as simple as possible.
What exactly is Dolby Atmos?

Read more